Objective: Age estimation of living or dead individuals has a strategic importance in medicine, anthropology, and forensic science, in the context of mass disasters and in civil or criminal matters such as adoption or asylum. Teeth play a major role in this context in particular, the third molars are useful for determining whether an individual has reached the legal age of 18 years because they are still in development from the age of 14. Materials and methods: In this study, a sample of 307 panoramic radiographs performed on healthy subjects aged between 13 and 23 was analyzed to consider the correlation between the maturity index of the third molar (I3M) and age to verify the reliability of the cutoff 0.08 indicated by Cameriere et al in a sample of Italian subjects living in the Province of Messina (Sicily, South Italy) to discern the adult subjects from the minors. Statistical analysis: The analysis of 307 panoramic radiographs resulted in a sensitivity of 89.2% with a confidence interval of 95%, a specificity of 96.5% with a confidence interval of 95%, and a positive predictive value of 96.7%. Results: The method proved itself reliable in estimating adulthood in the population of the Messina- Sicily, but the I3M should not be used as the sole indicator to determine whether a person is younger or older than 18 years because age estimation based on dental methods alone has limitations as the third molars suffer from many variations related to their morphology, their location, and their development. Conclusion: We recommend a combination of several methods that are available to increase accuracy of age estimation, depending on the different legal requirements in civil or criminal cases.
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